Tavares Strachan’s colossal bright neon pink sculpture: Impossible to ignore

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Tavares Strachan - You Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1x24.4m
Tavares StrachanYou Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1×24.4m, on Mississippi River, New Orleans, USA, for Prospect New Orleans’ triennial, Prospect.3

Published on: Friday April 7, 2017

Last updated

Introduction

Tavares Strachan showed his large-scale flowing sculpture in 2014. The sculpture was part of the Prospect.3: Notes for Now biennial show that occurred between October 2014 and January 2015 in New Orleans.

Neon piece visible throughout New Orleans

Strachan’s project was a declarative statement and performance that was entitled You Belong Here. The installation featured a 100-foot neon art piece that would be transported from one location to another on a 140- foot barge on the Mississippi River. The barge that carried the neon piece was made visible from different regions and places throughout New Orleans. It was created to pass on a message to the residents of the city, encouraging the city dwellers to examine themselves and what the city of New Orleans means to them and their futures.

Sketch for Tavares Strachan – You Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1×24.4m, on Mississippi River, New Orleans, USA, for Prospect New Orleans’ triennial, Prospect.3
Sketch for Tavares StrachanYou Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1×24.4m, on Mississippi River, New Orleans, USA, for Prospect New Orleans’ triennial, Prospect.3

Bright neon pink – Impossible to ignore

Tavares Strachan’s 20-foot-tall letters displayed in bright neon pink were impossible to ignore. Strachan used a bright, curly script and an onboard generator to communicate the words. The New Orleans project took more than 2 years to design and complete.

Interaction through app

While the majority of the artists participating in Prospect 3 displayed their projects inside public spaces, Strachan’s work floated on a river, which means that it was experienced and observed by a significant number of people living and working in the city. The installation also existed as an app that could be accessed through smartphones and other mobile devices. The app not only allowed the public to experience the piece, but it also welcomed commentary and opinions from the locals.

Public perception

While the installation was not specifically designed to render the warmth and the survivalist nature of New Orleans, many individuals that saw it chose to interpret the words ‘you belong here’ at face value. They took it as a call to welcome any new visitors to the city and as a warm appreciation for the people that had already lived there for years. In many ways, however, the phrase was intended to echo not just the welcoming sentiments of the city but to make people uncomfortable; to ask people to define who they really are in the context of New Orleans.

Why was the work installed on a barge?

Unlike other projects and installations that are typically displayed in galleries and open spaces, this piece was showcased on a broad and undulating space- the Mississippi River. Since the barge would move from location to location, the ‘here’ portion of the phrase was constantly changing, which made the phrase ‘you belong here’ more ambiguous. The installation was dismantled at some point in January much to the dismay of the locals that wanted it to be on permanent display.

Video

3min 5sec

Photos

Tavares Strachan - You Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1x24.4m
Tavares StrachanYou Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1×24.4m, on Mississippi River, New Orleans, USA, for Prospect New Orleans’ triennial, Prospect.3

Tavares Strachan - You Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1x24.4m
Tavares StrachanYou Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1×24.4m, on Mississippi River, New Orleans, USA, for Prospect New Orleans’ triennial, Prospect.3

Tavares Strachan - You Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1x24.4m
Preparation of Tavares StrachanYou Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1×24.4m, on Mississippi River, New Orleans, USA, for Prospect New Orleans’ triennial, Prospect.3

Tavares Strachan - You Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1x24.4m
Preparation of Tavares StrachanYou Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1×24.4m, on Mississippi River, New Orleans, USA, for Prospect New Orleans’ triennial, Prospect.3

All images by Tavares Strachan/anthonymeierfinearts.com unless otherwise noted.

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